Fishing for self-belief

A story by youth worker Ben Webb.

Holroyd Outreach ran a fishing activity during the January school holidays, which I was lucky to be part of. As we arrived at the park all of the young people helped us take everyone out of the bus and we sat down at the table. I facilitated a mini workshop on setting up your fishing rod and putting on your tackle: I guided young people through each step.

Max, one of the young people, was having some trouble putting his knot together. He said to me ‘I’m so crap at this… I just can’t do it’. He was close to tying the knot; I showed him how to finish it off. I then showed Max how to do the rest of the knot, I undid the knot, and handed it back to him. He said to me ‘Don’t undo it! I will never get it. I’m so bad at this I can’t do it, I fail at everything in life.’

It was clear that Max had a very negative view about himself. I wanted to try and help him change that, I wanted to encourage Max to say something positive and have some self-belief. I said to Max ‘Let’s do this knot together, and I bet you can do it’.

A few minutes later and Max had tied his first knot! ‘Oh my God, finally I got it done! Don’t let me do that again!’ he said. It was almost positive, but he still doubted his ability. I told him that his knot was really strong and there were two more knots to go. He wasn’t happy and was back to being negative and doubting his ability.

Max was aware of his negativity, but he continued with the activity. Max and the others were able to do the last two knots with little assistance. Max proclaimed ‘thank God that’s over; don’t make me do knots again’.

The next step was to attach bait to the hook and cast the line. I walked the group through the process. Max was particularly skilled with casting the line into the water and I made sure he knew it. It wasn’t too long before another obstacle presented itself.

Max said to me, ‘the fish just keep taking my bait and I can’t catch them. Can you sit here with me and show me how to catch one?’ I sat with Max and talked about tips for catching fish, keeping the line slightly tight, holding the line with your finger so you can feel the bites and when to strike. Max told me some of his past experiences with fishing, which he used to do a lot with his uncle at a young age.

Max then felt some big bites on his line and struck the rod. He was on! Max fought tooth and nail with a fish for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, Max reeled in a great fish. Max was over the moon and really happy that he’d finally caught one and kept on casting in the water to try and catch more fish.

Max didn’t give up fishing the entire time. He shared some of his new found talent with other young people and they too caught fish. At the end of the day, Max said ‘I don’t know why I keep saying I’m so crap at everything… I’m good at fishing’.

Here was a kid that thought he couldn’t achieve anything. Through a simple activity like fishing, Max learned that he could learn and be successful if he didn’t give up. That’s the power that our Outreach brings to young people, Outreach brings self-belief.

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